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Original Issue

Summer Won't Be The Same Baseball lost a key marketing tool when the Big Unit got traded

At least baseball got past the trade deadline with three of its
four marketing strategies intact.

1) The Annual Randy Johnson Trade Rumor. It should be apparent
by now that this, and not the All-Star Game, was the true
midseason classic. Seattle fans believed that they would awaken
on Aug. 1 to see Hideki Irabu or Chad Ogea or Antonio Osuna
toeing the rubber for the Mariners. Interest among fans of the
teams bidding for Johnson generated a nationwide buzz. All of
that wasn't bad for what turned out to be the trading of a
sub-.500 pitcher for only the second-best-known Freddy Garcia
and the third-most-celebrated Guillen in the game.

2) The Expos' Perpetual Going-Out-of-Business Sale. Like Lucy
yanking the football away from Charlie Brown's approaching foot,
some traditions must be preserved. Nothing helps sell the game
better than watching rich-market pennant contenders
systematically strip- mine the ever-fruitful Montreal farm
system. Whether it's a midseason deal sending lefthander Carlos
Perez and shortstop Mark Grudzielanek to the Dodgers or an
off-season one shipping second baseman Mike Lansing to the
Rockies or outfielder Henry Rodriguez to the Cubs, the process
still creates a curiosity about which Expos youngster will next
sparkle, ripen, mature and then be dealt off for the heart of
the lineup of the Asheville Tourists or the San Antonio Missions.

3) The Appeal of New Old Stadiums. If official attendance
statistics (through Aug. 2) are adjusted to exclude the
expansion Devil Rays and Diamondbacks, major league attendance
was up a resounding 273 fans per game, an improvement over last
year of nearly 1%. Four of the top five teams in average
attendance--Colorado, Baltimore, Atlanta and Cleveland--play in
stadiums where the paint may have dried but the enthusiasm over
the new parks hasn't. (The other top five team is Arizona, a new
team in a new park.) Two or three new $250 million ballparks
every year, and attendance could actually rise 2%!

4) The Chase for the Home Run Record. Baseball has to hope that
Mark McGwire, Sammy Sosa and Ken Griffey Jr. all come close to
Roger Maris's record but don't break it. The chance that one of
these guys might hit 69 homers this season could jeopardize
interest in the game ever after. Next season the hoopla over
whether anyone could break a one-year-old record might be pretty
slim. If that happens, the Mariners might have to re-sign Randy
Johnson as a free agent this winter just to start the rumor that
they're going to trade him next July.